Butter biscuits to biryani, taste the expanse of the South Indian highway with no toll stops
Jars of butter biscuits stand by as hot tea bubbles on the side, even as the sizzle of freshly poured appams and parothas slapped on tawas distract you. A few feet away, bajjis are being fried and golden paniyarams are being gently removed from moulds. I haven’t even got started on the variety rice counter or the Chennai tiffin counter. Those who love road trips will rejoice in the familiar flavours and aromas at the Hyatt Regency tonight as they launch their new food festival at Spice Haat called South Indian Highway Delights. “We decided to do this unique fest because unlike the much talked about Northern Dhabas that travellers swear by, there isn’t much known about the quaint and rustic highway restaurants, stalls and shacks that serve weary travellers home-styled South Indian food,” says Executive Chef Vikram Ganpule, the man who conceptualised this fest. Recreating the flavours and mood of the Southern highways, the five-day menu will be available for 10 days, featuring numerous live stations and signature South Indian dishes.
Fried and tested
We dropped by the restaurant for a preview, and a degustation menu got us started on a refreshing, gingery drink called panakam, which had hints of cardamom and was sweet with jaggery. For starters, the usual suspects include crunchy chicken 65, seer fish fry and batter-fried calamari (kanava varuval). The seafood choice depends on the fresh catch of the day and features indigenous varieties only, we are told. With a squeeze of fresh lime, we suggest you grab a pint of beer to do justice to this spicy line-up. However, being a working day, we proceeded to try their neer mor — a spiced and thicker version of the usual buttermilk.
The appams come with chicken and veg stew options — while the parothas come with chicken salna that packs some delightful heat. The five-day menu has that many different types of biryanis as well — including Ambur, Thalassery, Dindigul and Andhra style. We try their Chettinad mutton version, and found the aromatic rice to be delicately spiced with star anise and slow cooked to perfection, amidst succulent pieces of meat. Declaring it to be the winner among the mains, we ignore the onion pachadi to savour the biryani without corruption.
From the various live stations, you can try the sweet boli, Mysore pak, jangari, among other desserts. However I pick an unconventional offering from all those typical South Indian sweets — a blue-purple cola-flavoured, crushed ice lolly. Slurpy and sweet, the gola made for a quirky ending.
Till February 25. At Rs 1,450 plus taxes, for dinner only.